Monday, October 08, 2007

A Wizard of Earthsea

A main theme of almost any fantasy novel is good vs. evil. The main characters, though often flawed, usually end up fighting against the forces of evil. And there's no question the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad. There's this clear-cut distinction between the two sides. This book, on the other hand, does just the opposite. Ged thinks he is fighting some foul shadow that represents evil, but he is only able to "defeat" it by accepting that it is a part of himself. He finally figures out that the shadow is his pride, impatience, anger--the evil within him, the evil that he is capable of doing. There is no clash between the forces of good and evil, there is the clash between the good and evil in Ged.

At first the shadow is an incredibly destructive force because Ged has released it upon the world. Ged fears it and that gives it power over him. Only when he decides to "hunt the hunter" and confront it does he begin to have some power over it, and only after he figures out what it is and accepts it is he able to contain it.

That, to me, is a lot more true to life than the more common fantasy clashes. I know there is evil in the world, yet rarely can I say that that person or country or thing is purely evil. I think everyone is a mix of good and bad. Sometimes we respond to our positive urges and sometimes our negative. Some people make a habit of one or the other, but both are there in everyone. That is the wisdom of this book, and what I especially enjoyed about it.

Other thoughts:

- The importance of names. Everyone has a birth name, a true name, and a public name. Kind of the way we give ourselves screen names online. Do you have any particular nicknames that are meaningful to you?

- This is the first book of Earthsea. It was originally a trilogy: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore. Later she wrote Tehanu, then The Other Wind and Tales from Earthsea. I've heard they are all excellent. Last year the trilogy was also made into a TV miniseries. You can get all of them from the library if you liked this one.


At 10/08/2007 8:17 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Don't watch the miniseries. It's a horrific atrocity that shredded any point the books may have offered.

At 10/11/2007 2:14 PM, Blogger scott said...

I'll agree about the miniseries.

The books are wonderful though. There's a sort of old, spare language that Le Guin uses that I love. Her writing is so spare, and her storyline is almost mundane, so that when anything magical happens, I found myself glued to the book.

The book is much more a thinking-person's fantasy story than some of the newer ones in the genre. Le Guin doesn't blow you away with eldritch fire and shimmering auras on every page, only when necessary, and to great effect.

At 10/12/2007 10:28 PM, Blogger Kitten said...

Lunaria is meaningful to me because my BFF always calls me that or Luna!


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